Showing posts with label Vincent van Gogh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vincent van Gogh. Show all posts

Sunday, February 12, 2012


2012, oil on linen, 9 x 12 inches
Self-Portrait, 2007
Many famous artists have made self-portraits. Vincent VanGogh (Dutch, 30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) made 22 in just two years. The Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo  (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954) produced over fifty. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when scholars began to study Rembrandt Van Rijn (Dutch, 15 July 1606[1] – 4 October 1669), they were surprised to discover that he had painted himself on at least forty occasions, and had etched himself thirty-one times, and made a handful of drawings.
Frida Kahlo, Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird

I love to look at self-portraits. They are always inquisitive, and take a bit of boldness. After all, how many people can look at themselves in the mirror for hours—even days on end. It can be daunting, looking at oneself so closely and honestly. My first attempt was when I was a student at The Maryland Institute, College of Art, and my painting class was given the assignment to do a self-portrait. I spent sixty hours trying to get it right before I finally succeeded.
Van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Straw Hat 1887

The history of mirrors is a fun subject, and is the outcome of man’s craving to see himself, and know how he looks on the outside. In early times, crude mirrors were made of flattened, polished metal that showed reflections. Then, in Venice, Italy, during the 16th century, a method of backing a plate of flat glass with a thin sheet of reflecting metal came into widespread production. The invention was so fantastic and special, that it was a closely guarded secret.

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait-1660

In the field of photography, the contemporary artist Cindy Sherman (American, born January 19, 1954) is famous for her series of self-portraits. In them, she assumes a wide range of roles. Her prints are among the highest paid for photographs.

Cindy Sherman

This past week, I found a few self-portraits in my studio that were done within the past five years. I have re-worked them, even though my face has changes somewhat.
Wikipedia has a great article including plenty of pictures about self-portraits:

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Tightrope Walker

Being an artist is like being a tightrope walker, trying to keep balanced between creativity and staying in public favor. To lose either is to fall, but losing creativity is death, whereas public favor is capricious, not essential for life. Most artists depend upon public sanction and approval in order to provide for themselves and family. Everyone knows the tragic story of Vincent van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890). He passionately gave his talents to the world, but the public did not receive his gifts. Thus he was impoverished and depended upon the charity of his brother to survive. At the tender age of 37, he killed himself, and then some years later when public taste shifted, his work gained favor. Now, van Gogh is an icon and his work is among the most sought after in the world. And what if he had acknowledged and followed advice? We all would be poorer if he had conformed to the taste required by society and painted academic paintings with subdued tones and little flair or personality. Then, his unique and wondrous gift of authenticity would have been diminished and blighted and his greatest work would not have been achieved.

In contrast, Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) set the world on fire and after a brief initial struggle getting established, had the public eating out of his hand. Much of his work could not be understood, but perhaps because society was hungry for change and he was the man of the hour and capable of fantastic feats of creativity, his bold advances were met enthusiastically and he became very rich. His art is also among the most sought after in the world.

Common advice for an artist is to create a niche and be identified much as commercial brands are recognized. Then, grow the brand.  Most artists do this.  Norman Rockwell, Andrew Wyeth, or even Jackson Pollock, are painters who settled upon a technique and then harvested results. This practice extends to other art forms, such as poetry and writing, where some are haiku writers or fiction novelists, but not both. Very few are like Leonardo daVinci, a painter, inventor, sculptor, poet and scientist.

I admit that the public sometimes factors into my thoughts when I am in my studio. I have had success as a landscape painter, but other work has met with less enthusiasm. Some of my paintings, like the Hangup series, (faces hanging from clothespins on a line), have met with delight and wonder, but also revulsion and hatred. When I made the first, I was responding to a quirky inner vision, not public taste. I had decided to follow through with an odd momentary vision, and eventually produced thirty-five paintings. At one point I stopped painting, since I felt I was coming unglued, but now count the Hangup paintings as among my most important work. To prove the point, one of them, Van Gogh, All Hung Up is part of the permanent collection of the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh, in Arles, France, among paintings by luminaries of contemporary art.

Writing, photography, painting, drawing, making books, graphic design, public speaking, traveling, meditation, philosophy . . . the main thing is to follow the thread of the heart.

Visit the Steven Boone website.